Friendly confined

Talk to any piper or drummer older than 55 anywhere and they will all say that, until the 1980s, there was much more socializing and camaraderie between rival bands and players. In Ontario they always talk about how everyone camped at the games, had impromptu ceilidhs the night of the event, then played softball or football on Sunday. In Scotland they talk about band socials where other bands would support each other more.

And then they remark how today everyone just goes home, and hardly even socializes with the competition – the enemy – even in the beer tent.

Why have things changed so? Has what we do become strictly about winning? Are the high-stakes of the World’s and Maxville and Oban and Inverness becoming such that we have no time to have fun?


Your inner-Lance

As a keen road-cyclist, I was right into the Tour de France, watching the live coverage every morning. I cycle to work (about 12 km) each day through Toronto traffic and my wireless computer tells me that I average about 25 km/hour, and can reach a maximum of about 65 km/hr in one spot on the way home. That’s about courier-speed and the hour of riding each day is a work-out.

On the longer, flatter races on The Tour, the average speed is usually around 50 km/hr and they occasionally reach 100 on some downhill stretches. And that’s over four- or five-hour rides. It’s truly mind-boggling.

Lance Armstrong’s people have done a good job dispelling any notion of him artificially enhancing his performance. They coordinated an independent medical study on his physiology and publicized the results. The study was done by experts in the field who are also keen cyclists. Armstrong would appear to be some kind of uber-human, able to pump far more blood and consume more oxygen than just about anyone on earth. His natural metabolism combined with his training regimen make him virtually unbeatable.

Which of course leads to piping and drumming. Wouldn’t it be great to do a similar study on, say, Willie McCallum or Stuart Liddell or Jim Kilpatrick or even our own Armstrong, Chris? Is there something in their physiology that makes them do the things that they do with their bagpipe or drum so consistently?

Yes, of course they’re bound to practice like mad, but dozens of others who practice more, who compete or perform at the same level, don’t get the same results.

There must be a piper out there who could conduct such a study. The research on Armstrong basically indicated that, as long as Lance stayed on his bike, no one would touch him. Perhaps the same sort of conclusion could be made after studying our greatest players.

But, then again, since we’re not scoring goals, racking up points, or being timed, we’d have to conduct a follow-up study on the subjective brains of judges.